– This is a thorough guide to writing love that has faded, either quickly or over time, and hopefully you romance writers will find it useful. There’s some general tips outlined, some common questions answered, and some resources linked at the bottom. Happy writing!
The Slow Reveal
It’s important to slowly reveal why the love faded, and the manner in which it did. Was it a slow, slippery fall into a routine of just.. not trying? Was it a quick burst of passion that lead to quick commitment and then ended up being extremely short? Reveal that to the reader, and do it carefully. Tug at their heartstrings, and make them feel it. Don’t reveal it too quick either. Show them the good days, and then show them rotting. It’s that much more bitter sweet that way.
Bring The Characters To Unpack The Big Issue
It’s important to remember that your story will actually read by real people, and whether or not you mean for it to, the story will send a message. It’s vital to keep in mind that no matter the ending to your lovers’ story, they need to be the ones to propel it. No exterior factor can fix or break a relationship. Financial struggle, infidelity, distance, difference, and betrayal are not the causes of a failed relationship, or a faded love. A good rule of thumb is to think “if this factor couldn’t bring the love back, then it couldn’t drive it away either”, and that will always bring you to the conclusion that the only thing that can resolve an issue is the lovers themselves.
Let The Characters Grow, Even If Apart
Not all faded love comes back. Not all faded love stays dull forever. What’s more important than the love returning, is the fate of those who felt it in the first place. Both characters should learn something important, and both characters should be on the path to where they’re meant to be by the end, even if that isn’t with each other.
Love Is A Choice, Not A Chance
I know this is a difficult thing to understand, especially with the way love it typically framed in fiction, but at the heart of every larger-than-life romance, is the choice that was made to conceive it. Love is preserved in the choices people make to keep it alive. There isn’t a person out there who would tell you that they had a perfect love story without any compromise or conscious decision to stay and conserve it. If the love has gone away, it’s not because the couple was unlucky, it’s because one or both of them made a choice. Explain what choice(s) that was and why it was made in the first place.
The Little Things Build Up
It is never one big event or argument or struggle that makes love fade. It’s lots of little things, that each partner overlooks because “it’s not a big deal”, “they’ll get over it”, or “we’ve been through worse and gotten through it”. Show this, and make it hit home. This is the time to insert relatability, and the time to make the reader reflect on their own relationship(s), past or present.
~ Couples who recognize early on that the fire is going out… There are three types of couples: the ones who try desperately to fix it before it gets critical, the ones who let it simmer and get worse, or the ones who give up immediately. Determine which type your couple is based on their personalities and motivations, then go from there.
~ Depicting faded love vs. evolved relationship dynamic… Faded love is just that. When two people love each other, it’s easy to tell that they’re more comfortable than they are bored or even unhappy. Show this through the little things, and through the way both parties react in mundane situations.
For instance, when choosing a paint color, two people who love each other may bicker, but it would show that they’re both confident that no matter the outcome, it will be a compromise and that the tension won’t long because, in the end, it’s just paint. For a couple whose love has faded, the paint would act as a channel for bigger issues, and the argument wouldn’t really be about paint. That would show in the way their argument escalates.
~ Showing the confusion between love and infatuation… This isn’t always the case for faded love, and for the most part I’d say it usually isn’t because time passing is a major factor in this category of failed relationship, but two people failing to differentiate these two things can often lead to what is mistaken for faded love. Your love can’t fade if you were only ever infatuated with each other, so be careful in this territory.
Stories that are meant to be about faded love, but are based on infatuation that went too far, often fall flat, and the necessary trends that are exclusively for faded love will leave a nasty taste in the reader’s mouth. Arguments between two people who loved each other, but now don’t, are completely different than ones between two people who thought they were in love, but never were. The latter often comes across as abuse, rather than tragic loss of true connection, because the tropes don’t work.
~ How do you show what love fading feels like?… You have to have experience, or have a really practical imagination. Simply, put yourself into different shoes, even if they’re yours from the past, and trust your instincts based on what you have been through. We all know someone who has experienced this in some form, if not ourselves, so don’t be ashamed of asking for others’ stories and recollection. Emotional research is just as valid as any other, and just like representing a mental illness, you will be representing this experience differently than anyone else has ever felt it, so accept that.
~ Parents hiding their situation from the kids… This is a tricky one, because this area is where it gets real, and it starts insinuating aspects of your perspective. A lot of why a lot of couples who don’t love each other stay together (realistically) is religion, traditional values, and shame. These are viewed very differently by any given reader, and is the easiest spot to push some buttons and accidentally push your personal voice through to the point of them noticing.
That aside, I would approach this, like the emotional aspect, from an empathetic angle. Imagine how the kids would feel, how the tension would build, why it would build, how the parents would feel, how the parents’ interactions with the kids would be impacted, etc. Simply, put some time aside to think long and hard about this situation and all its implications.
~ How would a couple revive their love for one another?… That depends on the individuals in the relationship. As I said before, there are three ways a couple would respond to this, and the way they respond greatly impacts the way they would solve the issue. Some would fight for a while and wait for the love to just.. come back. Some would simply call it quits. Some would be in complete denial. You decide, and base it on the characters’ personalities and motivations. Not just what they want in general, but what they want out of the relationship, because whatever they have to fight for is what will determine they strategy they use to do so.
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- Useful Writing ResourcesUseful Writing Resources II
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